Tehachapi paid tribute to the brave men and women who sacrificed so much to preserve the nation's freedom during the annual Veterans Day celebration held Nov. 12 at Philip Marx Central Park.

This year's event was an extension to the traditional ceremony as it featured a Kids Bootcamp obstacle course and historical militia displays. Also joining the celebration were the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who handed out raffle tickets to the veterans in attendance for a custom, metal flag donated by local artist Eric Scarlett, the American Legion Riders, who did the raising of the flag, and the Tehachapi High School Choir, which sang patriotic medleys.

"We are here today to honor our heroes, to remember their achievements, their courage, their dedication, and to say 'thank you' for their sacrifices," said Master of Ceremonies and Navy Master Chief Jason Stanley. "Speaking of the heroes who have joined us in this group today, and those who are here only in spirit, we can't help but feel an awe of the enormity of what we encounter. To stand in the midst of patriots, family and friends of those who have nobly served. We have multiple generations of veterans to celebrate with us here today, and this is significant because they're the ones that benefit from the veteran services of the past. But, they also have the responsibility to carry on their legacy into the future."

Guest speaker was U.S. Army and Vietnam veteran Jim Rice, who spoke about his service and family as a multi-generational serviceman.

"It is very important, my heritage," said Rice, whose grandfather fought in World War I, father who fought in World War II, uncle who fought in World War II and other uncle, Herbert Miller, who was shot in the face during the Battle of the Bulge and wounded a second time in Korea and spent three years as a prisoner of war.

Rice said he was drafted in 1968, and went to Vietnam in March 1969.

"Don't let anybody tell you that it wasn't scary, because it was the scariest time of my life," said Rice, who was wounded in Cambodia on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27, 1969, after a mortar round hit the truck he was in. "The camps that we built, we called them Doomsday."

Rice said he was involved in the Cambodian Invasion in 1970.

"Cambodia was a very intense place. It was very scary, and I learned a lot about how to stay alive," Rice said.

Rice was wounded a second time in Cambodia on March 17 along with 30 other men. After leaving Vietnam, Rice went to serve in Germany where he was honorably discharged. After going to college for five where he learned how to be an air conditioner and steam engineer, he went to work for the City of Los Angeles and retired after 31 years.

Said Rice, "Then the effects of Agent Orange and being wounded got to me, and that's why I'm in a wheelchair."

Rice ended by giving thanks to the crowd for showing up and to his fellow veterans for their service.

Other special highlights of this year's celebration were Robby Scrivner, who sang the national anthem, and Father Wes Clare, who gave the invocation and benediction. 

Special thanks were given to Kevin Davey, 1st Vice Commander for the American Legion Post 221 and sergeant-at-arms for the American Legion Riders, and Jason Stanley, Navy master chief, for organizing this year's celebration with the assistance of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District, local veteran organizations and the Boy Scouts for their assistance in setting up.